Legislation takes aim at lawmaker benefits - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Legislation takes aim at lawmaker benefits

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

That extra retirement benefit lawmakers get, known as the Supplemental Legislative Retirement Plan or SLRP is finding itself the target of new legislation.  

"At the end of the day it's simply not fair that we receive additional, extra or some sort of special retirement system that other state employees do not receive," said republican senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville.

McDaniel introduced a bill asking the Public Employees' Retirement System to do a study on SLRP to see about closing the program to new members or allowing current members, like himself,  the opportunity to opt out, which they currently can not do.  

"I don't feel right about taking the additional retirement so I would like the chance to opt out and I think that's what we'll find in the report," said McDaniel.

Through the benefit lawmakers get an extra fifty percent more in retirement simply because they're lawmakers.   Factored in with base pay, per diem payments and monthly allowances, retirement packages can be based on a salary of anywhere from $35,000 to $60,000, depending on what positions individual lawmakers hold while at the capitol.

If you ask Mississippi Center for Public Policy president, Forest Thigpen, the legislation is about time.  

"Legislators ought to be under the same retirement system as all other state employees and it's important that they do it in a way that honors the legal commitments that have already been made to people that have already paid into it," said Thigpen.

McDaniel agrees and says he only wants lawmakers to at least have a choice.  

"We're not trying to injure or harm our veteran friends in the legislature. We understand they've been here a long time and they have every right to receive what they've been promised," said McDaniel.

As the bill sits in the senate finance committee, across the hall in the house there's another. The bill, by democratic representative George Flaggs of Vicksburg aims to shut the program down all together.

Having two pieces of legislation with the same goal is something Thigpen says is a step in the right direction.  

"They need to do away with it and if a study is necessary as a step to get there then that's fine but they eventually need to get there," said Thigpen.

Both bills will have to be voted out of committee by Tuesday or they will die.

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